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Rock ‘n’ Roll Haven Razed

October 19, 1987

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ The Tropicana Motel, a piece of pop history that was host to the likes of singers Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones and writer William S. Burroughs, has been razed to make way for a Ramada Inn.

″It was just so crazy around there,″ recalled Doug James, 34, whose Rhode Island band, Roomful of Blues, stayed at the motel near the heart of Sunset Strip’s nightclubs.

″It was a funky place, no doubt about that,″ said Jerry Heiner, 59, who headed a partnership that owned the motel from the 1970s until the early 1980s.

″I think it’s a shame. I think they should have gone and got it made a historic landmark, or something, ’cause it was,″ said Richard Miller, 52, who managed Duke’s Coffee Shop, a popular diner housed in the Tropicana.

Maybe it aged faster than other 41-year-old motels because the Tropicana hosted countless rock ‘n’ roll acts playing the Hollywood nightclub scene. Perhaps it was the fact that the motel charged only $29.75 a night if guests stayed the week.

At any rate, all that is left of the two-story, 59-unit motel this week is a pile of rubble, a tangle of broken laths and crumbled stucco.

″I’m very sympathetic to the history of this place,″ said Yehuda Naftali, 43, a developer tore down the motel to make room for a 178-room Ramada. ″I’m also sympathetic to the ambiance. The problem was the place was absolutely falling apart and it was impossible to keep in its present condition.″

Duke’s Coffee Shop moved to new quarters on Sunset Strip late last year in anticipation of the demolition. Autographed photos by many bands that have eaten at Duke’s are enshrined on the walls, including Volumatrix, the Gun Club, Maurice and the Cliches and Judy Nylon.

Naftali said he hopes to retain some of the nostalgia that the Tropicana embodied, but he acknowledged that the new motel won’t be the same.

Among the casualties will be ″the idea that you can walk in and break things, the way they used to ...,″ he said.″They used to throw the parties and get drunk and stoned and whatever. They won’t be able to do it anymore.″

Waits, the gravelly voiced singer-songwriter whose songs are about loving and losing in urban America, lived at the Tropicana for about three years, Heiner recalled.

Waits once enlarged - without authorization - the door to his room so he could move a piano into his quarters.

Burroughs, the beat author who wrote ″Naked Lunch,″ occasionally was spotted at pool-side. And singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones is said to have often curled up in a Tropicana lawn chair for the night.

″Somehow, over the years, the whole mystique was perpetuated,″ said Sylvia Eck, 36, who managed the motel for Heiner. ″Every time you turn around, somebody is trying to tell you a story about who stayed there.″

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